Shiny Shelf


By Alex Fitch on 15 November 2010

As a glutton for cinematic punishment I took the absence of press screenings for Skyline and an afternoon in Central London with nothing to do as reason to go and see this workmanlike alien invasion movie on its day of release. If I’d looked the film up – though was initially pleased to see a film with no prior knowledge – and clocked that it was by the same directors as the execrable Aliens vs Predator – Requiem, a film that reduced the once great Alien franchise to the level of a straight-to-video slasher movie, then I’d have given it a wide berth.

Skyline at least starts promisingly as mysterious balls of blue light fall from the sky in L.A. and anyone who stares at the light starts to mutate into something non-human. After this teaser however, the film flashes back unnecessarily to prove to the audience that the characters we’ve seen already whose back story is obvious within seconds need fleshing out in a vacuous, cliché-ridden prologue. An aspiring (actually talent-less) graffiti artist gets invited to L.A. to hang out with an old friend turned successful rapper (I assume, as it’s not even made clear what he is, he might be a pop video director / actor / fashion designer) who wants his creative input on a new project. Our hero, Eric Balfour (Six Feet Under) one of many undistinguished TV actors in a C list cast, also finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant and his best friend is having an affair.

So far, so soap opera, and this interminable fifteen minute section rumbles along, testing the patience of the audience until we get back to the plot and the aliens arrive. At this point kudos must be given to creature designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. (Aliens) who at least create intriguing looking monsters that are albeit not the most original in the world (if you’ve seen any apocalyptic manga / anime) but are unusual enough for a film made in the West to have a degree of innovation about them. Post Cloverfield (2008) and District 9 (2009), it seems odd to do an old fashioned invasion movie, particularly one that is clearly a mix of 1996’s Independence Day (featuring an almost identical dogfight for a start) and The Brain of Planet Arous (1957).

As the city gets attacked, our band of survivors duck and dodge alien and UFO attack as they and the other inhabitants of L.A. get whittled down – there is the customary shot of London and a handful of international cities being similarly devastated to give this a cursory global feel – by the invaders.

The problem is that we barely care about any of these characters – the most engaging is building supervisor David Zayas (Dexter) – and the most enjoyable aspect of the film is that for once humanity has no defence against the aliens and we begin to realise that the human race is actually doomed. When a nihilistic outcome is the best aspect of a film composed from left over moments from Roland Emmerich movies then it suggests the film should have perhaps been rethought at some stage of production.

If you can’t wait two weeks to see the far superior and thankfully low key Monsters and need some big screen monster movie action, Skyline isn’t entirely unwatchable. Hints that this may be the actual rapture as predicted by the bible are welcome and strangely innovative for a sci-fi B movie as is the unexpected ending (albeit similar to District 9) that suggests the possibility of a very different and unusual sequel.

Skyline 2 surprisingly is on the cards (the idea of the first film turning a profit beggars belief) and will be in competition with Cloverfield 2 in 2012, but if the film makers do continue exactly where this movie ends and create a surprising follow-up then it may actually be a film worth watching. The Brothers Strause can’t be entirely devoid of ideas; following a movie about the world being invaded, focussing on events in Los Angeles, it’s not as if the directors are following this up with F.X. work on a film called World Invasion: Battle LA (2011)…

Has anyone given Roger Corman these guys’ phone number?

Line Break

By Alex Fitch

One Response